One of the things that seems to naturally go along with a career in the arts is a love/hate relationship with fictional portrayals of people engaging in such, and that definitely applies to my experience with arts-focused manga. Still, after a fevered late night open letter directed at the TV show Glee, I can’t help but have those exact portrayals on the brain.
Most artists are going to be more sensitive to the inaccuracies and overworked clichés in fiction written about their own field than any other, so I suppose I’m lucky that there hasn’t yet been a manga (imported here, at least) about singers and actors in musical theater (though there are some fairly funny scenes with Broadway hoofer Art in Reiko Shimizu’s Moon Child). When there is, I’ll surely cringe. But for now, I’ll enjoy these fine series, glossing over the bits that chafe and taking them as they are. As a side note, I find it interesting that its subjects are all students.
3 Performing & Visual Arts Epics:
1. Nodame Cantabile | Tomoko Ninomiya | Del Rey Manga | Classical Music – While I know at least one classical musician who despises this manga, as a former classical voice student, this series evokes memories of what I loved most about my college years, when I was surrounded by other students just as serious about music as I was. For me, coming from high school in the depressed midwest, this was actually pretty novel, and definitely inspiring in a whole lot of ways. What perhaps works so well for me here, is that my own personality as a young music student was pretty much equal parts ambitious Chiaki and free-spirited Nodame. My relentless drive was weirdly balanced by hippie-like clothing and a persistent absence of shoes, something that drove at least one of my studio teachers absolutely crazy. It was actually my experience with her that convinced me to avoid a career in opera. I really, really didn’t like wearing shoes.
2. Swan | Ariyoshi Kyoko | CMX | Ballet – Unbelievably, I’ve only read one volume of Swan, and one of my greatest fears at this point is that I’ll miss picking up the others, now that CMX is no more. Though I never was a real dancer despite years of classes (lack of physical discipline & wrong, wrong body type), I spent quite a bit of my youth obsessed with ballet, and spent no small amount of my “spare” cash buying tickets to ABT performances during my NYC years. For me, reading Swan is a natural extension of my teenaged fixation with The Children of Theatre Street and The Red Shoes, confirmed for me by Jason Thompson’s detailed writeup in his column at ANN. Will I find the rest of this series? (what was published of it, at least?) Let’s hope it’s not too late!
3. Honey and Clover | Chika Umino | Viz Media | Visual Art – I suppose it’s a little tragic that the type of art that provides me with the greatest mystery is also the inspiration for the series on this list that has (so far) taught me the least about its characters’ vocation. I expect its later volumes may focus more heavily on career, but as I’ve (shockingly) just begun the series, I’m so far mainly lured by its delicious soap-opera. Regardless of how it plays out, however, I suspect there is no manga on earth powerful enough to help me understand how visual artists do what they do–that is how magical it is for me. Even as a music student, I learned early on that I would never create true beauty with my hands, no matter how much I tried and practiced. My voice was the only thing I could ever make real music with… the only instrument I could ever command with my own will.
So, readers, gimme your arts-centric manga! I want to read more! MORE!